I am not a building contractor but I’ve watched enough new construction to know a few things, like the importance of building a strong foundation. Constructing a beautiful home atop a shaky base is just asking for trouble. (Though, the opposite is equally true)
Top to bottom foundational strength matters in our music systems too. The best speakers in the world can’t blossom without a solid foundation of electronics to power them and vice versa.
I have looked at systems displaying an inverted pyramid of products far too many times. Top heavy in one direction or another: Great speakers with weak electronics or conversely, great foundational electronics with wimpy loudspeakers.
I guess the point of this post is to remind us that foundations aren’t always from the ground up.
What would you find if you took an honest evaluation of your setup? Would yours be a pyramid, hourglass or a solid rectangular shape?
The ideal, of course, is equal strength from beginning to end. Start at the AC wall socket and judge the chain all the way to your ear.
If you find your foundations solid you are fortunate. Few systems I have looked at are end-to-end strong.
There’s nothing quite so satisfying as enjoying the benefits of a rock solid end-to-end foundation.
Every component in our audio system was chosen based on our source preference: digital or vinyl. If we’re assembling a vinyl system then everything that follows is judged on how good music tracked with a needle sounds. Or, if digital, how a CD sounds.
We’ve covered this ground before but it is ground worth revisiting.
When building a system my advice is to choose your loudspeakers first and to invest the greatest amount of money in them. Everything else follows from there. But that isn’t quite the same as my opening statement of tuning to the source. Or is it? When you evaluate those new speakers it will likely be based on the source you’re most comfortable with.
We don’t always think about our selection process in terms of source material. Few think of the process as building a vinyl-based system, or a digital one. Instead, we tell ourselves we’re building a music system and we just prefer one source to another. The reality is that the source mediums are so different they wind up dictating just about every decision in the chain: speakers, amplifiers, preamps, wires, room conditioning, positioning, voicing. All tuned to our source material.
Which is why you can’t judge source technology by simply plopping it into a system pre-tuned for the opposite. Dropping the finest digital source equipment into a vinyl-based setup won’t work. You will always prefer the original.
It may not be possible to have a system that’s optimized for both so let’s not make sweeping proclamations about which is better, digital or analog.
All we can legitimately say is what we prefer in our optimized system.